The Importance of Scouting a location for family portraits

Dear Friends,

last week I had the opportunity to do a family portrait session at a beautiful location here in Colorado with a sweet family of 4.  The session lasted about 60 minutes and we had lovely evening light on a cloudy night.  It went smoothly and I felt very much at home at the venue, even though I have only been in Colorado for a few months.

Why did I feel at home?  Because I had scouted out that location months ago!  I took pictures of the location, and went at about the same time of night I knew I would be booking an appointment.  I was familiar with the proximity and availability of parking, nearest restroom facilities,  possible hazards, animals on the property, (in this case, there are abundant bunnies!) possible background textures, structures on the property, and the physical address to give my clients so they could get directions.  I even knew that the access road was under construction so I could tell them to allow extra time to get there.

Are these details important?  I created a whole gallery on my website of “Memphis Photo Shoot Locations” with photos of each location, with and without models to illustrate lighting and features.  That gallery was accessed 2,190 times in the last month!  I have thought about deleting the gallery, since I live in Colorado now, but it’s obviously filling a need for photographers, parents and other folks in the area, so I will leave it open.

When I have scouted out a location and educated myself about everything I can, and anticipated the questions my client might ask (where is the closest bathroom??) I am free to focus on my client and move them from one location or activity to another in a smooth manner.  That way, my energy and attention is completely on providing them with a memorable and positive experience.

If you are a portrait photographer, or aspire to be one, please consider scouting out several locations in your area.  Take a few photos so you can remember what you’ve seen.  You’ll feel more comfortable, and will be able to focus on what’s important:  your client and her family!  🙂

-Laura Lee


Palm Springs is Beautiful in April!

Hi friends!  I thought I would pass along this invitation to attend the Great Escape Publishing workshop in Palm Springs.  I will be speaking (briefly!) in the evening on April 6th.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  This is a wonderful way to improve your photography and meet others that share your enthusiasm!

If you have a sense of adventure, and you’d like to see more of the world in a way that’s different to the typical tourist, then grab your camera – this invitation to join us in Palm Springs is for you…

Join us at this year’s ONLY Ultimate Photography Workshop

When: April 5-7, 2016

Where: Palm Springs, California

Why: In just three power-packed days, you’ll get everything you need to gain the confidence, power, and prestige of turning your photographs into a financially valuable skill. One that earns you a lifetime of travel and fun!


Register by Monday, March 21, and save $200 on your seat. Click here for more details.


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

Winter, but not for long!

Hi friends!

We have recently moved to Colorado and I thought I would post a few photos from some of my hikes in the area.  The sunrises and sunsets are spectacular, and there is so much natural beauty in this area.  It’s winter time, and on one of my hikes I saw that it was just cold enough that the water currents were frozen into a thin layer of ice surrounding the rocks in the creek.  We have had many sunny days here and although we’ve had snow, it’s melted now, except for the mountain areas.  I hope that you will get out there with your camera and enjoy winter’s wonders.

Of Love, Loss and Hugging your Honor Guard

2014-07-17 12.57.05

Dear friends,

sorry to have dropped off the face of the earth for a while.  My father passed away in August of 2014, after a long battle with cancer.  We drove out to Utah for the services, and there was an honor guard present from the United States Air Force.  (My Dad served 20 years in the Air Force Reserve, as a Fireman/Crash/Rescue  and was on active duty during Desert Storm 1.)  They stood immovable and stately, reverent in demeanor.  We had our son with special needs in his stroller, and he was content to be there until the honor guard arrived.  He kept pointing to them and asking to be let out.  So, as any good mom-of-a-special-needs-child, I let him go, and as a photographer I had a camera ready.  All he wanted was to give our servicemen a hug.  I wasn’t sure what the rules were…are the Honor Guard allowed to hug while on duty?  Our son didn’t know, and didn’t care.  He wanted to thank these young men for their service, and for escorting his Grandpa to his final resting place.

Does the world need children with special needs?  Do they contribute anything to society? Anyone observing the scene would have been able to ascertain that our son, at that moment, did the one thing we all wanted to do, but could not.  He loves people unconditionally, regardless of race, social status, religious beliefs or political party.  He represents the very best of us, the part that is moved with compassion and gratitude.

Though the challenges are many, I am happy to call him son.  I am humbled by his innocence and humanity.  Yes, there is a place in this world for children with special needs.


Chic Critique Spring Photo Contest – Vintage!

 20140131-IMG_9981This is my entry for the Spring Chic Critique photo contest!

I was so happy to have such a beautiful model and 2014 Senior for this photo shoot.   The muted colors, vintage heavy curtains and window light made for a timeless look of beauty and serenity.   Congratulations, Emily and the class of 2014!

Los Angeles by I-Phone Photography

BLOG 2014

First of all, Happy 2014 to everyone!

Does anyone else out there like to do some “spring cleaning” in January?  I like to take this month to organize my photos from the last year, clearing up space on my desktop, in Light Room, and make way for a new adventure this year.  While cleaning things up, I ran into these photos that I took with my I-phone while we were in Los Angeles over the summer.  I wanted to see if I could capture some of the look and feel of the city with just my phone.  All the photos above are exactly as I took them, unedited.  I hope they give you a sense of the traffic, architecture, the expansive Pacific Ocean, and Chinatown.  If you have a cell phone, you probably have a camera.  To download these images, I e-mailed them to myself, downloaded them from e-mail to my computer and then had the option to edit in Light Room or Photo Shop from there. (of course, in this case, I wanted you to see them as I took them!)

Don’t waste those great images on your phone.  E-mail them to yourself, download them onto your computer and save them into a folder.  Then, you’ll be ready to delete them off your phone, and have plenty of space for 2014!

2 Weddings in 2 States in 2 Months

WP summer 1 collage

WP summer 2 collage

WOW!  Summer is over and it’s time to catch up on many things, including my blog posts!  I had the wonderful opportunity to be the wedding photographer at my first 2 weddings.  The first took place at the LDS (Latter-Day Saint) Los Angeles, California Temple.  My hubby was my second shooter, using the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS to catch people from a distance.  The bride and groom were stunning against the dark green doors of the temple.

The second wedding took place at the LDS Manti, Utah Temple.  It was a windy, cloudy day but fortunately the rain held off until we were on our way to the reception in another town!  The other photographer at the event was fantastic (Curtis J. Morley Photography) and between the 2 of us, we were able to capture some great moments at the temple and reception!

 What is the difference between doing portrait photography and weddings?  Why are there so many articles, forums and discussions that recommend AGAINST shooting a wedding unless you are a pro?  In the age of digital photography, you have INSTANT feedback about your work.  I cannot imagine shooting a wedding in the age of film, not knowing for sure if you have succeeded in capturing some unforgettable moments or – NOT!  Surely, weddings captured in film are (or, were) not for the faint-hearted.  I think EVERY photographer should shoot a wedding!  HOWEVER, here are areas where you HAVE TO BE proficient before you attempt your first wedding, as you will be doing ALL of these:

Portrait photography – get used to shooting on manual, and always, ALWAYS shoot in RAW.  period.  You must understand ALL the basics; aperture, ISO, shutter speed, depth of field, focus points, and may want to expand your understanding to back button focus if it applies to your camera body.

Landscape & Architectural photography – practice taking photos of churches or other buildings, inside and out, with all kinds of light including noon day sun, on cloudy days, and even a few rainy days.

Macro – have a lens or set up that works for macro photos, as you will want to capture details of the event…the lace on the dress, the wedding rings, the flowers, the wedding cake, etc.

LENSES…I would highly recommend renting, borrowing or purchasing the following for wedding day.  I shoot with Canon, so you may have to adapt this for Nikon:

24-70mm f/2.8 L  You need this range for group and family photos!  If you shoot ONLY with primes, just be sure to have this range covered…

50 mm f/1.4 L   You will need a good, fast portrait lens, and the 50 is hard to beat.

70-200mm f/2.8 L IS  With the monster weight of this lens, IS is a helpful tool.  This is great for low light, across the room when you can’t get any closer and need the shot…

I would also recommend purchasing and practicing with a speedlight/flash and studying bounce flash techniques indoors so that you don’t have ugly shadows to clean up in post production processing!

Does this mean that I now want to be a wedding photographer full time?  I learned a great deal from shooting both of these weddings, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.  However, my goal is STILL to be one of the top contributing photographers for Shutterstock.  Having a child with disabilities, I value the flexibility of choosing my own schedule and work, based on his needs, therapies and medical appointments.

I encourage you to give wedding photography a try.  It is stressful, exhausting and demanding.  And it’s one of the most rewarding things you will ever do!

CARPE DIEM – seize the day!

My Dad and I have a favorite saying…it is simply Carpe Diem!  This is the Latin form of “seize the day”!  I love this simple saying.  Instead of think about the day, or fear the day, or get through the day, it’s SEIZE the day!  It implies action.  It is active, not passive.  It implies control.  What exactly can we control?  The events of some days seem very much out of our control.  But I do believe we can control our attitude toward events and people.

I believe that all good gifts and talents come from a loving God, and that when you share your talents with others, you often help them as well as yourself.  In photography, I love the concept of “paying it forward” and that photography can be a gift to others.  In the last year, I have adopted the City of Germantown.  I have done numerous photos for Parks and Recreation, including the Bobby Lanier Farm Park and the Special Recreation programs, all free of charge.  This year, I was asked to do the PROM photos for the special recreation department.  They provide an outstanding evening for individuals with mental, physical, emotional and other challenges.  Their decorations were beautiful, they provided food and drinks, music and entertainment for about 130 people in the Germantown area, all without cost to participants!!!  The participants really dress up for this event.  It’s a dressy, formal evening of fun.


I had a great time, and I know they did, too!  Have I ever photographed a formal event before?  no.  130 formal photos in a short time? no.  But I believed in myself, my equipment, and decided to seize the day.  I learn something new every time I get my camera out.  So, here’s to taking charge, paying it forward, and deciding to seize the day!  Try it!  You just might surprise yourself!

Memphis in May – bring your allergy medicine!

pollenMemphis, Tennessee… known for drawing in big crowds in the month of May for music and food.  Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, the downtown area is home to old and new. The Orpheum theater, and new high rise buildings.  It’s a city of contrasts.  It’s a city of churches of all kinds, for all kinds of people.  People here are not ashamed of their faith.  You can hear “God Bless You” and “Have a Blessed Day” from the cashier at the grocery store.  Spring is mild and warm, with everything from azaleas and dogwoods to wisteria in bloom.  Spring also brings allergies!  To demonstrate how MUCH pollen is around, I wrote the word POLLEN on my outdoor table!  Here’s another shot of my handprint (in the pollen) on the BBQ:

pollen 3They say there are more musicians (retired, working, consulting) in the city of Memphis than you could officially count, and there’s always live music of some sort available in or around the city.  Check out the schedule for “Memphis in May” from May 3 to 5 to see the kind of music that Memphis attracts!

I guess it goes without saying that the BBQ is abundant, relatively inexpensive, and competitive here.  One of my favorites is the Commissary.  Looks like a shack but the food is amazing and affordable!  Check out some of our beautiful churches while you are in the area, too:


Bring your family, bring your BBQ, bring your CAMERA, bring your faith, bring your sense of adventure.  Spring is stunning in Memphis.  and hey!  Don’t forget to bring your allergy medication!

until next week,